Digital Marketing Underdogs: Quora and HARO [Case Study]
— March 22, 2019
Marketing is about getting noticed. In a world full of digital noise, this is easier said than done. But, it’s not impossible.
In addition to the connections you make with your utility content, you can also take that show on the road. Of course, you can get your content syndicated, or post it to channels like Reddit, LinkedIn, and Medium.
And yes, you want to post your content to your social channels, multiple times. Buffer and Hootsuite are both great tools for this.
But, there are two powerhouse marketing weapons you might be missing out on. Before we look at those, a bit about building traffic.
How to Build Website Traffic
Links, right? Do you need lots of links? Yes, you need links but it’s more complicated than that. You need the right links.
How do you find anything? Chances are you do a search. You might type a search into Google on your phone or desktop. Or you might just ask your iPhone a question like some hipster version of Captain Kirk.
No matter how you find something, the results are all delivered using complex algorithms but based on some simple factors:
- Your search intent
- What others like you are searching
- Where you are
- How you’re searching and on what
- The relevance of certain content against these factors above
All of these things are being considered in an instant by the search engine. But, here’s the thing, while the algorithms are complex, Google and other search engines will always take the easy road.
They’re going to look in target rich environments for answers to your questions. They want to find good content that’s already been proven useful by the masses… by clicks, likes, links, etc.
So, back to those two tools, I was talking about…
If you’ve heard of these before, great! But, are you using them the right way? Let’s take a look.
HARO – Help a Reporter Out
Originally developed by Peter Shankman as a way for journalists to find sources, it has now grown into the number one tool for journalists to find their sources for articles, TV appearances, podcasts, radio spots, and others.
It’s remarkably simple. Journalists register with the site and submit source requests. Then, twice a day, an email goes out to 800,000+ people, the “sources.”
These sources then scan the requests (see below) to find something they can help with. So, what does this do? It gets you free press and, most likely, a link from a printed article back to your website. This gives your domain increased authority if the referring domain is a respected resource with lots of traffic, like a popular magazine or newspaper website.
Here is a sample of a HARO email…
While this might seem tedious if you have the time it’s a lot less expensive than engaging a PR firm. We’ve gotten a few hits with HARO but it was one of our clients who really struck gold here.
vCalc Uses HARO to Build Traffic and Domain Strength
vCalc is an online calculator and dataset utility that is steadily becoming THE place for math online. HARO has played a role in building awareness and traffic to their website. I’ll let Kurt Heckman, founder, and CEO of vCalc, tell you the rest…
For quite a while I was trying to promote our new web platform vCalc.com. I was reaching out to friends and potential investors telling them how vCalc was the Wikipedia of calculators. It’s an online utility where people who understood how math works could create free online calculators.
We were doing pretty well with the college community but struggling to reach the broad public. That’s when a friend told me to consider HARO (Help a Reporter Out).
He said that since vCalc’s main selling point was free help calculating everyday things, reporters would invariably bring up topics that had an element of what we did. He was right.
I hadn’t signed up for HARO long when there came an inquiry on how people should prepare for hurricane season.
One of our calculators is based on a paper by a Ph.D. civil engineer who told people how to build sandbag dikes and walls and, wait for it, how to compute how many sandbags you need, how much sand you need, and how long it will take to build one.
Our Sandbag Wall calculator has those calculations and a copy of the opensource engineering paper. The HARO reporter jumped on it. The sandbag calculator included in the article about storm prep with a link back to the calculator page.
There have since been many and wildly diverse opportunities to help reporters with ways math touches on everything from computing the square feet of your kitchen to computing how many jellybeans are in a jar.
We’ve been picked up about 50 different times in the last three years.
The Benefits of HARO
Think about what’s happening here. Sites like realtor.com with a commanding domain authority have links to vCalc in articles that will likely be there for a while. This is not only an opportunity for a person to find vCalc but also another channel through which Google can find vCalc.
Domain strength and link building are proven ways to build rankings in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and to boost traffic.
Google is looking at content and ranking signals. They want to make sure your content is useful. They also want to make sure you know what you’re talking about. Google is looking for a trusted domain referencing your content with a link in one of their posts as validation before giving you a favorable ranking.
And you get all of this by scanning a couple of emails daily. Seems worth the effort to me.
Quora – The Answer to Your Marketing Quandaries
HARO and Quora share one main benefit… they’re both easy ways to build authority and traffic.
Quora is a popular question and answer site. But, it’s not just another boring forum. There is a certain stickiness built into it for the questioners and answerers.
Create an account in Quora and then tell it a few things about yourself. Specifically, you let Quora know what you know. You’re telling Quora that you are a Subject Matter Expert or SME in certain areas.
For example, let’s look at my profile…
As you can see, aside from my horribly outdated profile pic, I am claiming to be an SME in content marketing, marketing, digital marketing, web development, search engine optimization, and more.
Before you start doubting yourself, let me be clear. I’m not claiming that I have a Ph.D. in these disciplines. And neither would you be. You’re simply stating that you know enough about these topics to be able to answer some questions.
As you answer more questions, you gain more popularity in Quora. Those answers are index-able by search engines (Google). And Google can tell which account is responsible for those great answers: yours! And in your account is a link back to your website.
Oh yeah, and you can paste links to articles relevant to the answer you’re giving. Guess where those articles are? On your blog!!! More link juice!!! Gold, Jerry, gold!
So, going back to Kurt at vCalc, I asked him if he had similar success with Quora that he did with HARO. Let’s take a look…
vCalc Panning for Quora Gold
Here’s Kurt’s Quora success story…
Quora was different.
Where HARO was like fishing, Quora was like panning for gold. We simply sign up for topics where we knew we had good content and waited for the public to ask questions where we could use our calculators for answers.
In every case, we gave very good and direct answers, but we also showed how we got the answers which included link to vCalc.
Here’s an example: someone asked the question, what is the surface area of a cube with 8-centimeter edges, and here’s my answer:
The Surface Area of a Cube with a side length of 8 cm is 384 square centimeters. The formula of the surface area of a cube is:
SA = 6•s²
• SA is the surface area of the cube• s is the length of a side of a cube.
We’ve since answered over 1,000 questions in this way, and as long as we provide good answers, it appears that Quora is okay with the links back to vCalc.
In short, we’ve provided terrific content for Quora AND served ourselves.
vCalc is coming into its own. We have over 30,000 calculators embedded in over 13,000 web pages at vCalc.com. We’ve had 148,333 page visits in the last 30 days with an average engagement of over 11 minutes and 51 seconds per page.
That 1,757,746 minutes of client attention (almost 30K hours) in one month AND we know what our users are interested in because of the calculators they are using.
We are up 75% year over year and growing steadily. HARO and Quora definitely played a role in that growth. By the way, we could tell a similar story about YouTube (that will be another post).
So, as you can see, this isn’t just link building. This is building links and authority based on useful SME content. In both Quora and HARO, you get the opportunity to demonstrate that you have the answers to your potential client’s questions. And, in those answers, you get to place links back to your great content.
These are both easy daily habits you can add to your marketing arsenal that will help boost traffic now and build steady traffic growth over time. Have you had success with HARO or Quora? Let me know in the comments below.